The Return of Corned Hams

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Watching the food go out of the kitchen last night, it suddenly dawned on me that we are in full winter mode. It may seem odd for me to say that I suddenly noticed something so obvious, but that's how the menu ebbs and flows around here. We know the foods that we will be serving in cold weather, but we don't sit down one day and say that the winter menu will be this and it will begin on this date. Paul and I discuss upcoming possibilities every week. We talk about what's liable to be around and what is starting to go away. Pork shanks weren't the hit we had hoped, so maybe it's time for Cheese Pork. Somebody asked me about rutabaga the other day. Eliza MacLean called and I remember that people expect corned ham after the holidays. There are bluefish off the coast again, but this time let's bring back the diced vegetables and fines herbes . It's more wintry and we haven't done that in a few years. And what about pineapple upside down cake? This is how we work. Happily Paul keeps notes, because I can't remember anything. People sometimes ask for things I don't really recall making. Possibly they are asking about the one night stand of a lucky combination of odds and ends plus leftovers, but I have to beam appreciatively as I try to pry clues that might jog my memory. I hope I'm not implying too cavalier an attitude about the menu, but after all these years I have confidence in this wish and a prayer approach.

In any case, last night we had a wonderful winter menu. Besides the bluefish and cheese pork, there was duck with vinegar brown sauce and pink grapefruit (the cranberries went away with the holidays); that New Moon cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery, baked and served on winter greens with fresh pecan halves that my father gave me, and the first corned ham of the season. Everything was colorful, festive and glistening with rich sauces. Just my cup of tea.

I have indeed decided to break form this year and return to Mexico for my birthday instead of making my usual trip to Quebec. I have more friends to cut up with in Celaya. So this year, no veal brains on toast with brown butter and capers at the Cafe St-Malo on January 11th. I have to admit that thinking about this gives me a little pause, but I'll probably go north later this year. It is the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec and they are planning quite a wingding. Speaking of guts, look for sweetbreads to appear when I get back, and those pecans will probably show up in ice cream sometime soon.

posted by Bill Smith at 7:15 AM


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